Leadership 101 from Dan Carpenter

Early on during my tenure with Pat I asked him about an award he had received. In a very humble manner, Pat told me the story of when he was the commanding officer of the 8” Artillery Battery in Vietnam. His unit had been thrust into a fire support mission for an Army Unit who was in the vernacular of the day, in a “sh*t sandwich.” The results were that Pat’s Marines helped save the day for the Army soldiers and the commanding officer wanted to show his appreciation. After the Army unit got out of the crap he came to Pat and told him to write up what they had done and give him the names of three or four of the top Marines and he would get them each an award. Pat thought for just a second and said, “Could we do the write up and give the battery a unit award instead?” The Army officer said sure, he would check into what unit award would be appropriate and then get it done.

And that is how the Army Valorous Unit Award came to be awarded to a MARINE unit–the members of Pat’s Battery.


The second half to the story is that streamer is the only Army unit award on the Marine Corps Colors with its battle streamers from the earliest days of the Corps. All because a Marine Captain exercised good leadership in making sure his men were recognized for something they had done. Leadership lessons don’t come much simpler than this one yet I have learned in 30+ years of my work life how scarce this thinking really is.

Since my time with Pat in 1982-83, I have used this example to guide my thinking on organizational recognition while in charge of three Marine Corps Public Affairs offices, as director of public affairs for NASA-Johnson Space Center, as director of corporate communications at Lam Research, and while chief of public affairs for the US Army’s Garrison at the Presidio of Monterey. Well over a hundred people can thank Pat Townsend for instilling such a memorable leadership lesson in me 28 years ago.

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